Limits to Submission: Abuse

If you think that abuse is a valid aspect of submission, think again. These Scriptures make it clear that it is not!
See notes at the bottom to address abuse that isn't physical...

Recently I’ve had people ask some questions about submission and abuse, and I think it’s important to answer them biblically.

Should a wife submit to physical abuse? No. Never. 

Physical abuse should be reported to both the church and the government authorities. If your church tells women to accept physical abuse or tells women not to report it, find another church.

Stopping abuse is not only humane, it’s also biblical. 

Scripture offers clear evidence that human life and health take precedence over law-keeping. Let me offer these examples: 

1. Multiple Scriptures say lying is sinful, but in Joshua 2, Rahab lied to save the life of the spies, and she is commended for doing so (Hebrews 11:31). 

2. Throughout Scripture we’re told to obey authority, but in Exodus 1, the two midwives lied and disobeyed the government laws so they could save Israelite babies. And they were commended for doing so (Exodus 1:20-21). 

3. Old Testament laws allowed priests to do things others could not do, but in 1 Samuel 21, David and his companions disobeyed temple laws and ate bread reserved for priests because they had no food. And Jesus approved their behavior, pointing out that there are times when mercy is more important than law-keeping (Matthew 12:1-8). 

No woman should submit to abuse. It isn't loving or biblical.

While it is appropriate to disobey a lesser law in order to protect life, it is never appropriate to take a life in order to spare ourselves a lesser difficulty as some modern Christians are claiming in regard to abortion. While God approved of David breaking the temple laws to eat the bread, He would not have approved of David killing the priest in order to eat the bread. God does not approve of any excuse for abortion except to spare the life of the mother, something which is almost never necessary. See From Veggie Tales to Situational Ethics and Abortion Victims.
Verbal abuse: Verbal abuse is also sinful, and should be addressed. If a spouse is verbally abusive and doesn't respond to correction, the offended spouse should address it with a pastor or mature Christian. But we must beware of the modern trend to exaggerate problems. People sometimes use terms like "verbal abuse" when they are actually describing situations that are simply difficult or annoying. See What Is a Toxic Person.

If you think that abuse is a valid aspect of submission, think again. These Scriptures make it clear that it is not!

Bible Love Notes


  1. Thank you for addressing this important topic! It's essential to remind ourselves that no woman should ever have to submit to physical abuse, and that seeking help from both the church and government is vital. Your examples from Scripture are also powerful reminders that there are times when we must prioritize the preservation of human life and health above following the law. It's crucial to have a clear understanding of these principles and to stand up against any form of abuse, whether physical or verbal. Thank you for sharing this insightful and thought-provoking post.

  2. I truly appreciate that you are addressing this issue. So many women have left the Church and walked away from the Lord because they were 'counseled' to submit even when they were in physically abusive marriages. By the Grace of God, I am a survivor of such. It ended with a knife to my throat.

    Batterers are a 'Jekyll & Hyde'. They are often known as being a 'really nice guy' and often hold a place of leadership in churches. They are often generous, friendly, witty, and charming. Also, they can be very calculating and never leave the marks and bruises in visible locations. If the abused woman finally reaches a point in which she does decide to tell someone, she is assumed to be exaggerating because no one has ever witnessed any proof of such abuse and, of course, he's such a 'nice guy' so he could not possibly have done what his victim claims.

    As a result, many abused women suffer in silence... and some even die by suicide because they've been persuaded to believe that they must be the problem. Any woman that does come forth with such a claim must be taken seriously. If the abuser does admit to 'some' abuse, he will usually play the victim and make claims of provocation. Do some wives come forth with false claims and false accusations? I believe such do exist. However, they are few, and in either case the situation must be investigated. There is NO excuse for such abuse.